More than three years after the American Israel Public Affairs Committee fired two senior staffers who were targets of a federal investigation, a lawyer for one of the men is accusing the pro-Israel lobbying organization and the broader American Jewish community of mistreating and abandoning the defendants.

The charge was made by Washington power-attorney Abbe Lowell, who represents Steven Rosen, former policy director of Aipac. Interviewed this month on a local Washington radio station, Lowell acknowledged that the lobby’s scrupulousness might have been warranted in early stages of the investigation, when the case appeared to involve espionage. He said, however, that information made public since then has made it clear that the charges against Rosen and another ex-Aipac staffer, Keith Weissman, do not involve espionage or a concerted effort to pass secrets to a foreign government. . .

Lowell called on major community organizations, which are described by friends of Rosen and Weissman as having turned their backs on the defendants, to show moral and material support for the two. Offer them jobs, offer them support, because they deserve no less, Lowell said.

As for the organization officials contacted by the Forward, none of the individuals commented on relations with the two former Aipac staffers.

Nearly all national Jewish organizations have remained silent during the case, and, with few exceptions, no communal officials have voiced opinions on the government decision to prosecute. Neither defendant has been offered work with any Jewish institution since leaving Aipac. Several attempts over the years by Jewish businessmen to hire Rosen as a consultant were short-lived.

In contrast to the reticence of Jewish organizations, a number of non-Jewish groups are active on the issue. A spectrum of civil liberties organizations has spoken out against the prosecution. In particular, groups devoted to defending First Amendment rights of free speech and press freedom have warned of the case’s potentially harmful impact on the work of journalists, lobbyists and researchers.

One group, the First Amendment Center, warned that criminalizing speech about government secrecy would allow government officials to slip through the back door of the nation’s newsrooms. Another, The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press, tried to file a friend-of-the-court brief on the defendants’ behalf.

Rosen and Weissman have been charged under the Espionage Act, a 1917 law that forbids disclosure of government secrets. Legal experts say that this is the first time the law has ever been used against civilians who are not government employees. (MORE)


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